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I’ve recently returned from a much needed vacation and thought I’d share a bit of my experiences with you, not fitness related per se but definitely in the category of mental health and self care.  Those of you that know me are aware that I consider this equally as important as exercise and nutrition for living our best lives.

A little backstory for you, it was the beginning of June and almost time for my annual bday getaway. In an effort to see more of the world, I made a commitment to myself a few years ago to travel every year for my special day. Some years they are grandiose, others they are just a short drive from home, the destination less important than taking time to honour myself and explore uncharted territory. The only rule I have is that it has to be to somewhere I’ve never been before. It’s a great way to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone and see more of this beautiful world. I’m only a few years in but I’m slowly compiling an amazing set of memories with different people, places and experiences to call my own.

Some years I’m definitive of where I want to go, but more often than not I am booking a few weeks out when a particular destination suddenly inspires me. This year was particularly tough, its been a bit of an emotional year and although I knew I needed a break, the telltale signs of my falling locks speaking loud and clear that it was time, I still struggled. The new website that I am so proud of made a big dent in my bank account and I worried if taking a holiday was the right thing. Fear always settles in when I see the numbers dwindling and I wonder if I will be ok. My spirit always speaks softly to remind me I am taken care of but my ego likes to run the fear cycle, not to mention the voices of my parents speaking reason and responsibility (all valid) Maybe a staycation I thought? Just some time away from clients and the day to day would be enough.

I’d felt as though I’d lost some of my joy the last while, the playfulness that is my companion taking it’s own vacation, or so it felt. I was doing my day to day but the cup that was used to feeling full with plenty to give was running low and I needed a refill STAT.  My daily morning pages filled with words of doubt and prayers for guidance. Of wanting to tap out. To be clear, not suicide or anything like that, but just something different than this life I’d created. It is rare for me to feel that way, although I have my struggles (as we all do), my life is pretty great.  I have an amazing son, who is continuing to grow into a kind, emotionally intelligent young man. My parents are both healthy and still with us, something I try not to take for granted. I have a small group of close friends that are more like family, and I know they are there for me when I need them. I love the work I do and have an amazing roster of clients committed to living a healthier life. I have many creature comforts not afforded to all. Despite all this and a daily gratitude, I was feeling sadness more often than not. Dollars aside, I needed to find my mojo!

As I waffled back and forth on whether to go anywhere and if so where I would go, from a part staycation and a night somewhere close to home to something further. One place kept popping up in random conversations and moments. A calling perhaps. Trusting my intuition and ignoring the ‘responsible’ voice, I checked my air miles and booked a flight. Costa Rica beconing me, surely I would find my joy again in it’s  it’s lush rainforests, volcanos and beautiful beaches.  I had this deep sense that it was not only important that I travel, but I travel THERE.

I planned my itinerary and opted to spend the first few days up in Arenal, the most recently active of Costa Rica’s many volcano’s. Not typically my thing when given the choice between forests and beaches but it just seemed right.  I mentally prepared for rain and bugs and opened myself to something new with the promise of my second stop being the beaches of the Pacific. I drove the winding roads from San Jose to La Fortuna, grateful that my parents had made me learn to drive on a manual transmission. I took in the luscious landscape and all of the beautiful birds soaring freely against the blue skies. (There were SO many!)

A few hours in I caught a glimpse of Arenal, hard to miss as she dominated the landscape. The town is small and I quickly found my hotel, http://www.royalcorin.com  which I’d chosen based on proximity to the volcano as well as access to the onsite thermal springs. The hotel was perfect and I had an amazing view of Arenal’s beauty from my balcony (and bed)  I could feel her power and presence and felt a strong connection to mother earth.  Seeking rest and rejuvenation, I lounged poolside, had a quick workout (see my gym diaries for the review) a nice meal and finished the day in the thermal springs and sauna before heading to bed. 

Rested and ready to explore, the next day I headed to the National park and trails…just a short drive from the hotel. I hiked for about 3 hours through the trails, listening to the birds and monkeys, watching the ants work collectively and taking in the beauty.  Lava fields to jungle forests, I dripped in sweat and thanked my strong legs and lungs for propelling myself easily through the trails, over fallen logs and all that was placed before me.  I was alone that day, my breathe, my thoughts and all the beauty of nature. The only other people I saw were 2 tourists on horseback making their way up the trails as I made my way out.

My mind clear but my body dirty, I was ready for my next destination that day – the waterfall!! I backtracked closer to town and found the waterfall that called me to play. More tourists were here, but still not that busy and the rain started as I trekked down the 400 stairs to the base. It was in full tropical downpour by the time I was at the bottom and the few people that were in the pool had scattered. Undaunted and knowing I was going to get wet anyhow,  I stripped down to my suit, packed my things into my wet bag and clamoured over the rocks to the water, it was cool and refreshing after the days activities and I frolicked as it cleansed away my stress. My first waterfall swim, I laughed and played and recognized that old feeling I’d been searching for. Joy. Welcome back, my friend. I smiled my first genuine toothy grin in what felt like ages, a smile from deep within.

Spent and at peace,  I made my way back up the steps – 2 at a time of course – and enjoyed a cold beer at the top before heading back to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon was spent resting, eating and lounging in the springs. My skin felt smooth as silk and my heart was full.

I felt that rare connection here and as I prepared to leave for the coast the next day,  I knew this would be a highlight of my trip and the first time in many months that I felt truly relaxed and at peace.

There were more amazing moments like this on my trip but I will cherish these days with Arenal at my side as my favourites and hope to one day return. As I settle back into my day to day in Vancouver I feel that my cup that was once depleted, now runeth over and I share freely.  There is plenty for me and for others.  Pura Vida!